Sunday, March 31, 2019

Sunday Movie, Almost

You don't go to the French Film festival for cutting edge cinema.

As Pru pointed out when she declined my invitation to join me yesterday afternoon, most of the films that get shown end up becoming available on Netflix, so your motivation to go has to come from something other than a desire to read subtitles (not that there's anything wrong with subtitles because some of us love subtitled films).

Besides not having a TV, much less Netflix, I enjoy the festival for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which is reveling in being at the FFF now that there are comfortable new seats (bonus: with cup holders) to spend hours in. Those years of camping out in seats with springs digging into our backsides and torn fabric are but a distant memory.

The film Pru had passed on was "Abdel et la Comtesse," a charming comedy about a Contessa with no sons, only a daughter to whom she couldn't pass down the nobility title of her late husband. To the rescue comes a jailbird named Abdel, who also happens to be an art-savvy thief who knows which objets d'art to take and which to leave behind because he's that well-informed about art.

Plus he ultimately has a heart of gold, a code of honor and the Contessa's veterinarian daughter falls for him, but only after Abdel teaches the Contessa to throw gang signs, walk like she doesn't care and take on a local gangster who looks to be about 10.

Plot aside, the movie gave me several French film staples that I love: a gorgeous, old chateau, a character who smokes everywhere and a love story.

Because I've been going to the festival for so many years, it always boggles my mind when I run into somebody without a clue what's going on. That was the case after Mr. Wright and I ate at Branch and Vine when we finished and the chef inquired, "What's next?" After sharing our intention to see a film at the FFF, she was gobsmacked. "Oh, so that must be what the crowds of people were about. I stopped by Carytown on the way over and it was mobbed!"

Okay, I can understand people not going to see French films, but how could you not even know about the four-day event? Especially since it's been going on now for 27 years. But I try not to judge.

Mr. Wright and I were headed back to the Byrd a few hours later when I ran into a couple of people I knew, another reliable perk of the FFF.

First there was the Frenchman, looking tanned and rested, whom I hadn't seen since he closed his restaurant so he could have more time to be with his aging parents in France. Next came the woman I'd met a few years ago at a music show when she first moved into the city. Introducing me to the woman she was with, she explained that her friend was a glass artist and that I wrote for Style Weekly.

It struck me that she was reducing us both to an easy description and I challenged her about how she'd describe herself as succinctly. I know her as a painter and a cyclist, but she admitted she'd have described herself as a graphic designer, which is how she pays the rent.

Funny how we reduce ourselves to what we do for money.

We'd all come to see "Le Collier Rouge," a film set in 1919 about a man conscripted into WW I. It's unfortunate for him because it happens shortly after meeting and falling in love with a woman at a nearby farm after she asks that he make a delivery of hay to her. The audience realizes that they're hot for each other because he's worn his Sunday suit to drop off the hay and she has put on a lovely white eyelet blouse to work in the garden while awaiting his arrival.

I mean, come on, some of us don't even shower unless we have a date, so I see getting gussied up is a sure sign of obvious mutual attraction.

The story, which was told in flashbacks, followed the man into the horrors of war (there were several bayonet-filled scenes I had to close my eyes for) as he became disillusioned with the chaos of war and slaughter of innocent men. In a moment that can probably be ascribed to PTSD, he eventually awards his dog his Legion of Honor medal in front of the entire village and gets carted off to jail for treason.

Naturally, it, too, had several standard issue French film cliches from using a bicycle as transportation to an old French house lit by oil lamps to a love story.

I'm telling you, I love French films for these familiar chestnuts.

After a leisurely morning and lunch at a bustling Garnet's, we headed to Carytown for the FFF one last time. Amazingly, we even snagged the same seats we'd had Thursday and Saturday evenings, minus the giant man with big hair who'd plopped down in front of me Thursday, necessitating craning my neck at an unnatural angle for the entire film just so I could read the subtitles.

But we hadn't allowed for the introduction of the French delegation, students and volunteers, a lengthy process that involves introducing every intern, every student, every Byrd Theatre employee, every actor, director and creative person involved with the entire FFF. I'd sat through it in the past and vowed never to do so again, but the organizers had slyly not included it in the festival schedule, so we'd been ambushed.

I'm here to tell you that I sat there for an hour and a half of the introductions and munched through a medium buttered popcorn before feeling like we were never going to see ""L'echange des Princesses" and giving up. Well, actually I just turned to Mr. Wright and suggested we blow this pop stand rather than devote any more time to waiting for a 3:15 movie to begin when it was already 4:30.

Au revoir, French Film Festival. I love you, but I've got limits.

Until next year...because. let's face it, I always come back.


  1. In the words of Björk:

    Hope you are doing well...

  2. I am doing so very well, Professor, and also thank you for your kind words. We'll see...

  3. I've not seen any recent blog posts. Are you taking a break or did I manage to mess something up with my settings? Thanks.

  4. Now that I'm in this wonderful relationship, I've been so busy and traveling so much that I have been on a break. Stay tuned!

  5. As I suspect you are as they say, "in the moment" and enjoying this time to the Max -- if not you wouldn't be Dr. Birdlips. Besides it's your birthday month isn't it. U only go around once!!


  6. Hey, there, cw, great to hear from you! You are spot on about enjoying this time to the max. And, yup, birthday week kicks off tomorrow and goes on till May ends, so that's another layer on top of everything else amazing going on.
    Thanks for hanging in there with me!